A/N: Well, you made it through my crazy again. Congrats. I know there are a ton of post-finale fics out there (most of them done a lot better than mine), so for you guys to take the time to read this means more to me than you'll ever know.
And for one final time, thanks to my M&Ms: Mel and Meg, the best supporters in the history of ever.
Epilogue: All That Lies Between Us
An unexpected thing happened to Kate Beckett in the days after Castle left.
He came back.
When her phone flashed Dispatch at her at an ungodly hour, her stomach still dropped, but she dutifully slid out of bed and walked to start the shower. She paused at her dresser to lay out her mother's ring and her father's watch, but her eyes were not on the jewelry. Instead, they were on the reflection in the mirror: toes peeking out from beneath her comforter.
And then she did something she never did when heading to a crime scene: she smiled.
She dragged a fingernail along Castle's bare foot, and received an incomprehensible grunt in reply. "Roll out in twenty," she said, cheery if only to annoy him.
As she disappeared into the bathroom and among the steam - not the specter of an unattainable future that had haunted her for so long - she thought about the fact that while it appeared that so much had changed, truthfully, nothing had.
She knew with certainty that they'd still bicker and banter; he'd still pull her pigtails, and she'd still scold him for playing Hangman or Pictionary on the white board. She also knew they'd devote every ounce of energy they had to institute law and order once more. A paradigm of balance.
They'd still see death and ask for explanations that didn't exist. But instead of walking the path alone, they'd have each other to hang on to. To carry them through.
The only thing she was afraid of was what the boys would do when they found out. She'd bet Castle twenty bucks that by lunch time, there would be Photoshopped pictures of the two of them in compromising positions, or a forensic art rendering of what their children might look like. (Though she'd never admit it to Castle, even under oath, she was actually half interested in how the composites would turn out.)
When she stepped out of the shower, he greeted her with two cups of coffee and, somehow, a bear claw. She quirked her eyebrow in confusion, and he simply smiled, pressing a kiss to her cheek. "I'll be ready in five."
True to his word, he was. He ushered her out the door with a hand on the small of her back, which slid up to cup her shoulders and pull her snugly against him.
As they waited for the elevator, she glanced at him sidelong and said, "If you say, 'is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me,' I will leave you here."
He smiled, then boldly stole a kiss as the elevator doors opened. "Noted." When they arrived in the garage, he leaned in closely again, running a finger down her neck, which he'd quickly figured out was one of her erogenous zones. "Can I drive?"
She pinned him with a disbelieving stare, and he dropped his head in acquiescence. "Hey, it was worth a shot."
She climbed in, and then watched as "the writer of wrongs" righted their own. He slid into the passenger seat, and finally, all was right in her world again.
As she pulled onto the surface streets, her hands moved from their customary "ten and two" position to about nine o'clock and covering Castle's hand. He turned his palm upward and interlocked their fingers.
It was heartstoppingly new, but somehow also deliciously normal.
There were no words said, but not because she was again at a loss; blank like the board in the bullpen would be for a few hours more. Instead, she reveled in the peace that accompanied them to the scene. The same peace they'd be able to use to walk yet another family through hell on Earth.
She nodded her thanks to the officer who had cordoned off the crime scene as he lifted up the yellow tape to allow them to pass. As she put the car into park, she saw Ryan and Esposito further down the gravel access road, backs to the riverbed and their crime scene, and instead staring at a doubly occupied car that, for the last few months, had only held a driver.
Castle glanced down at her. "You ready for this?"
She took a deep breath. "Honestly? Not in the slightest. But," she squeezed his hand, "there's no place else I'd rather be."
He pressed a kiss to her temple - a gesture that had the audience outside catcalling within two seconds - and then pushed his door open. He waited for her at the front of the car, and they walked to the scene.
Beckett pushed her sunglasses on top of her head, ignored the boys and knelt next to Lanie, who was desperately trying to keep the shock from registering on her face.
But Kate had gone into detective mode, and when Castle crouched down next to her, they asked in tandem, "What have we got?"